European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is set to start a year long quest to break down barriers to e-commerce trading across borders.
According to a report on Reuters, she believes barriers are preventing the growth of sales online. She also appy ears to believe that some companies are using the existing situation to block trade between the 28 European Union countries.
The European Union said that one in two people bought stuff online during 2014, but only 15 percent of people bought kit from another EU country.
She will send a set of questionnaires to the 28 members of the EU and she will also send the billet doux to a number of companies that she believes might be actively blocking trade by using border barriers.
She expects to have a report ready by the middle of next year and believes that it’s important to have a single digital market in the European Union.
Apparently, investigators from the Commission raided European companies that sell electronic gizmos online that Vestager believes may be engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.
While Amazon is known to many for delivering CDs, books and foot spas, not many are aware that it has grabbed a sizeable chunk of the enterprise market too.
And now it seems eBay wants a slice of that enterprise action too. The company said today it has introduced a global programme that will pull in companies selling retail, business consultancies, system integrators and digital agencies.
It said it wants its partners to advise, design and integrate “omnichannel” commerce using eBay Enterprise elements including Magento, Retail Order Management, Store and Warehouse fulfilment and customer care.
eBay said it will extend facilities in the future and wants to provide retailers with the opportunities to grow their businesses internationally – indeed globally.
It has already recruited a number of partners including Gorilla Group, Bridge Solutions, AOE, and Vamio. These companies all have a multi-national presence.
Craig Hayman, CEO of eBay Enterprise, said: “This is just the beginning as we set the stage for future programme enhancements that create mutual opportunities for growth with our key partners.”
Smartphones and tablets have not just changed the way we shop online, they are also having an impact in brick-and-mortar shops, as many shoppers are using them to compare prices and read product reviews. But shoppers aren’t the only ones doing a bit of intelligence work on the ground, the retailers are responding in kind.
More and more retailers, or click-and-mortar outfits are gathering data from smartphone users in stores, reports AFP. They are simply using the smartphones to check what the shoppers are up to, where they are moving and what they are looking for. The practice is not going down well with privacy groups, but shops seem to like what they are getting and there are even a number of start-ups specialising in the field.
Of course, the data shops can collect is rather limited, but it is nonetheless useful. They can track users visits and their identities, learn how frequently the shoppers return, see what they are looking for in the shops and so on. The data allows them to better understand customer behaviour and to come up with ways of getting more return business and making better offers to potential customers.
Although privacy concerns are rather fashionable these days, thanks to America’s attempts to beat East Germany in spying on its own citizens, most of the data collected by the shops seems relatively harmless, as it doesn’t include any truly personal data, such as phone numbers, emails or credit card info. In fact, anyone who swipes a credit card in the shop is likely to be providing the shop with more valuable information.
It sounds like a benign and relatively harmless practice, but if it catches on it will undoubtedly draw more scrutiny. Not because it is dangerous or unethical, but because talking about privacy and data security is a pretty good way of getting on the telly and getting some free publicity.
It appears that Facebook is finally starting to make sense for marketers. For years Facebook users complained about every single redesign and the inclusion of more ads, especially intrusive ones that appear in newsfeeds.
However, it appears that they are working. The Drum reports that 12 percent of Facebook users in Britain have already made a purchase after seeing a product in their newsfeed. So for all the talk of hating Facebook ads, the same people who are complaining seem to be falling for the ads.
What’s more, Faceboom EMEA veep Nicola Mendelsohn said mums spend three times as much time on Facebook during the holiday season and they account for the vast majority of Christmas gift purchases.
Facebook has recently announced the launch of a new SMB content hub that should help small businesses promote goods and services on the social network.
A report fresh out of Nielsen found that shoppers behave quite differently when they’re doing their shopping on tablets rather than smartphones. Tablets are a lot more likely to be used for product browsing and tablet users write more product reviews.
Two thirds of smartphone shoppers use their devices mostly at home, while the same goes for four fifths of tablet users. More often than not, they watch TV while their playing with their smart devices. Tablet owners are more active with product research (59 percent) and are more likely to purchase physical items (38 percent) than smartphone shoppers (24 percent).
However, smartphone shoppers make up for it by being more active outside the home. On the other hand, Nielsen found that quite a few mobile shoppers are on the sofa while they’re shopping. This is true of 95 percent of tablet users and 72 percent of smartphone users, who make their purchases from home. Tablet users are more likely to make a purchase overall.
In a brick-and-mortar setting, smartphones reign supreme. As many as 70 percent of smartphone shoppers use a store locator to plan their shopping trip, while 37 percent arrive with organised shopping lists stored on their phones. The majority of smartphone and tablet shoppers use their devices to check prices before pulling the trigger. More smartphone users do this in physical stores. Smartphones also lead the way when it comes to mobile coupons and mobile payments.
Even when their shopping spree is done, many shoppers turn to their tablets to write product reviews or write comments about their purchases on social media. The majority of smartphone and tablet shoppers also use their devices to track the progress of their online orders.
British people are falling in love with e-commerce and a new eMarketer report claims their enthusiasm for buying things they don’t need and can’t afford with money they don’t have will drive UK business-to-consumer e-commerce sales up to £62.49 billion this year.
It gets better – by 2017 the figure may hit £89.73 billion, or 16 percent of total UK retail sales. However, the figures include digital travel sales. The volume of retail e-commerce sales this year may be £44.06 billion and they will represent 70.5 percent of B2C e-commerce sales in 2013. The share is expected to rise to 72.5 percent by 2017.
Although the average UK buyer often ranks as the top spending e-commerce consumer worldwide, non-UK people are starting to play a notable role in B2C sales. IMRG speculates that online retail sales made by non-UK people will total £10 billion this year, up from £7.4 billion in 2012.
Mobile e-commerce is also showing signs of growth. Sales from mobile phones and tablets are expected to increase 71.8 percent year-on-year to £6.6 billion, that’s 15 percent of total UK e-commerce sales. In 2017 they will hit £17.2 billion. Possibly.
Most online shoppers are after clothes, sports goods, household goods, travel arrangements, accommodation, tickets, music, films, newspapers and books. British fashion outlets are doing particularly well, unlike their counterparts in the rest of the world. Many people are still reluctant when it comes to buying clothes online, but fashion shops in the UK are offering free shipping and generous return policies.
Accenture has teamed up with Hubris to implement cross-border multichannel solutions more effectively. Accenture is now the sole global strategic partner of hybris, the world’s fastest growing commerce platform.
The unholy alliance should combine Accenture’s prowess in digital marketing, platform management and customer experience with hubris’ leading omni-channel software. The companies hope to peddle commerce solutions to enterprises in retail, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, telecommunications, media/publishing, software and gaming.
“We have seen huge growth in e-commerce in the last few years, often driven by global brands looking for complex platform solutions, but with the ability to offer local languages and market websites for customers,” said Frank Schoutissen, Vice President Channel of hubris. “Our alliance with Accenture will allow these companies to have both a technology and implementation partner that can help them meet these objectives. We are very excited about the potential this will bring to both companies and the customers we can support as a result of this.”
Anatoly Roytman, EALA managing director of digital consulting for Accenture Interactive, said Accenture can help bring the hybris’ omni-channel commerce platform to companies that have struggled to implement worldwide transaction solutions that can be tailored to local country needs.
“Our global presence can reduce the complexity and cost of transforming the consumer transaction experience across multiple geographic markets,” he added.
The agreement should enable international brands to create consistent consumer transaction experiences across multiple channels, including online, mobile and in-store, regardless of geographic location.
Onlineretailers are on a roll, but many of their sites aren’t performing well due to some rather basic technical limitations.
According to a recent report from NCC Group, the top 50 online retail sites in Britain exhibited poor website performance last quarter and much of the problems were caused by ancient internet connections.
The end result was that fancy sites with plenty of flash content offered a less than stellar shopping experience, as they were simply too slow. NCC Group tested the sites and found that the average download speed was 6.7 seconds on a 2Mbps connection. The average speed in Q1 was 6.27 seconds, but research has shown that load times over 3 seconds tend to drive customers away.
It seems that online retailers are sparing no expense when they develop their sites, so they end up with elaborate and relatively “heavy” websites that take too long to load. Average internet connection speeds aren’t keeping up with the trend.
Worse, the top 50 retail sites averaged a downtime of 4 hours and 17 minutes, which is also up from last quarter’s 3 hours and 23 minutes. It seems that feature packed sites are not only slow, they tend to be less reliable as well.
“It’s a worrying trajectory and one that retailers need to address quickly. If a website is slow to load, consumers will simply go elsewhere, while any downtime will lead to a direct loss of sales,” Bob Dowson, director of NCC Group’s website performance division said. “The potential within the online retail space is massive. In 2012 the value of online retail to the UK was ￡78bn*, and that’s only going to grow. Retailers that prioritise their website performance will put themselves in a great position to fulfil their potential in the market.”
The financial performance of the UK e-tail market has been largely positive in Q2 2013, with shoppers spending 18.3 percent more in June compared to 2012. However, this report indicates that it could have been a more successful quarter if retailers had prioritised consumer experience through web performance.
The EU is looking for ways to help the retail sector and one of its tools could be a new cap on credit card fees. Although the European Commission has a chequered record in such matters, the new plan appears to resemble the EC’s roaming caps, which were a success.
Physical retail outlets and e-commerce operations are starting to converge and consumers are starting to treat all channels as shopping, which it essentially is. Although high streets are suffering, e-commerce is becoming a force to be reckoned with, but e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail are not mutually exclusive.
Google reckons that retail channels are converging, as traditional retailers are starting to make inroads in e-commerce. Physical shops are undergoing a transformation, they are becoming more focused on brand building than actual retail and they are becoming catalysts for related e-commerce services.
In a recent whitepaper Google VP of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy concluded that consumers no longer see a distinction between online and offline shopping. The experience is becoming seamless and intertwined.
“Whether it’s searching on a laptop, browsing main street shops, or hanging out at the mall — it’s all shopping,” he wrote.
Since shoppers seem to be growing blind to the distinction between e-commerce and traditional shopping, they might end up with similar expectations for customer service regardless of the channel, reports Practicalecommerce.com. In other words, they might expect the same level of service online as they do in actual stores. Salespersons keep physical retail going by offering consumer advice and more information than sterile e-commerce sites, while the online channel is unbeatable for comparing prices and saving money.
“Today’s shoppers have become accustomed to doing their own research to get the maximum value out of every dollar they spend, and to feel secure about the purchases they’re making;” Ramaswamy wrote. “With this power shift comes a great opportunity for retailers; those that use tools and insights from the web have the opportunity to close the gap between the smart online consumer and the offline retailer, and stand out in a competitive marketplace.”
Searching for products and comparing prices online is easy, provided one knows what to look for, and this is where salespersons need to be involved, with expert advice. Getting a better deal on a product doesn’t really matter if that particular product does not meet the customers actual needs and properly informing and advising consumers online is just as important as having as competent salesperson in a brick-and-mortar shop.
The United Kingdom is expected to end the year with a healthy £1.8 billion internet trade surplus, thanks to British internet retailers who adapted to online faster than their continental counterparts.
In a report called Modern Spice Routes, the Nielsen Company and PayPal worked out that the UK is going to spend £8.5 billion online internationally, but it will also sell £10.3 billion worth of goods and services. There’s more good news, as the figures are expected to reach £18 billion and £24 billion by 2018, generating an impressive surplus of £6.4 billion, reports The Wall Street Journal.
British internet retailers are obviously doing something right, but more importantly the Germans aren’t. Germany is expected to have a €4.7 billion trade deficit this year and the UK should have a positive internet trade balance with Deutschland. German shoppers are expected to buy €1.7 billion in UK goods, while Brits will spend just €619 million on German products.
PayPal Senior Vice President for EMEA & Asia Pacific, Rupert Keeley, said UK retailers have adapted more quickly to international buyers than their German counterparts. He also stressed that China represents a huge opportunity for global traders.
“Once China does crack its customs and import challenges, and they get through the logistical issues, it will become a huge market, particularly for British goods,” he said.
However, we have a Eurozone caveat of our own. There is a very good reason Germans are flocking to British shops and it’s not the nice lass behind the virtual counter – it’s the euro. The pound has lost quite a bit of ground over the past five years, making many products in Britain significantly cheaper than on the continent, even with VAT and shipping. This was not the case five years ago and for British retailers to do well across the Channel, the pound needs to stay weak.
Although online retail sales are still growing, new research from Mintel has revealed that growth is slowing quite rapidly. The online retail sector expanded by about 50 percent in 2008, but last year growth slowed down to just 15 percent. However, this is still much better than the rest of the retail sector and it means the UK online retail sector will double by 2018, with double-digit growth rates.
On the other hand, the slowdown means new players will have a much harder time gaining market share. Established operations only need to maintain their lead, which was gained with little or no competition. The next big frontier is mobile retail.
Mintel retail analyst John Mercer believes online only retailers have possibly picked all the “low hanging fruit,” so new outfits will have to get more creative. However, he notes that the market is still very dynamic.
“In a low growth market [for retailers generally], double digit growth [in online sales] is nothing to be sniffed at,” he said.
Although online-only outlets seem to have grabbed an early lead, they are about to face a lot more challenges. They currently account for less than half of all online sales, but Mintel believes they won’t see much more growth, as high street retailers enter the online space, reports the Financial Times.
New services like click and collect, coupled with new POS and payment technologies might help the high street gain a competitive edge over online-only retailers. After all, many people still like to touch and feel products before they pull the trigger and this is something the convenient online channel simply can’t deliver.
Calls for the introduction of a new online sales tax have been growing louder and unsurprisingly online retailers are having none of it. They believe any additional tax burden imposed on their businesses would be detrimental for people, for jobs and investment.
In an open letter, signed by the CEOs of Ocado, Shop Direct, N Brown, Boden, Appliances Online and notonthehighstreet.com, the plans for the introduction of a new tax were branded as “nonsense”, as online retailers are overburdened as it is.
“Online retailers already pay tax on many fronts. Customers pay VAT while other taxes include fuel duties, employment taxes, corporation tax, as well as business rates on their warehouses and offices. Just because the online business model does not require as much property does not mean that other areas should be taxed more heavily,” the execs said. “A popular view has been that bricks and mortar retailers have a high tax burden whilst a few very large international online businesses pay a small amount of tax here, therefore the tax system for all online players – big and small, UK and international – should change. But this is a red herring, an issue of domicile not online retail.”
The retailers believe that a new online sales tax would kill entrepreneurial spirit, making it harder for small retailers to get started. It would also have a detrimental effect on supporting industries and exports abroad. They noted that SMEs would be hit by the unintended consequences of the law, along with people that buy stuff.
“The idea is vague and ill thought-out. Does it include just those retailers which operate online-only, or those with stores too? Should online travel agents be wary? Could it also capture online financial services providers? There is no logic to penalising companies that provide consumers the convenience, efficiency and value online shopping offers,” say the e-tail execs. “Online is a rare and precious success story for the UK and one that we should take pride in. We support our high street counterparts in their call for lower business rates, but hitting online businesses by replacing lost revenue with this type of tax will hamper growth, slow the economy, impact jobs and reduce investment whilst not achieving a significant uplift for the Treasury.”
The online retail market in the UK is still going strong and according to IMRG Capgemini’s latest figures it is growing at the fastest rate in two years. IMRG Capgemini’s e-Retail Sales Index found that June sales rose 20 percent year-on-year. Furthermore monthly sales in June were better than in May for the first time in five years.
IMRG CIO Tina Spooner said the market has beaten expectations this year, with 16 percent growth in the first half of the year, beating the outfit’s earlier forecast of 12 percent. Mobile transactions are also doing well, up 136 percent year-on-year in June.
“Mobile commerce continues to power on in 2013. More specifically, the mobile conversion rate has increased from 1.27% in June 2012 to 2.03% in June 2013 which is a very positive signal that mobile commerce is achieving serious traction in the UK market,” said Oliver Ripley, mobile product manager at eCommera.
Ripley pointed out that modern retailers are investing more in mobile commerce storefronts, both through browsers and bespoke apps. The shopping experience is getting better for mobile users, with improved payment services and user interface improvements.
Ripley also noted that consumers are becoming more used to mobile transactions and this is especially true of younger consumers.
Chris Webster, VP, Head of Retail Consulting and Technology at Capgemini said the uplift experienced this month will provide retailers with a note of cheer.
“With the Index recording its biggest year-on-year growth since June 2011 and Q2 being 17% up on Q2 2012. This is in stark contrast to the continued decline in store footfall reported by the BRC over the first half of the year and amplifies the increase of online at the expense of store sales,” he said. “In addition, Britons remain price-conscious, but have responded well to good deals found online and it’s good to see consumer confidence returning.”
Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips believes the Government should impose a new online sales tax to level the playing field with its rivals and e-commerce outfits. Philips told The Daily Telegraph that the tax imbalance between internet and high street retailers is illogical and it is taking its toll on Britain’s town centres.
Interestingly, Morrisons is moving into the online space right now, but it still feels it should pay its fair share. Last week Philips said Morrisons lost £700 million of sales last year because it lacked an e-commerce platform. Shoppers simply chose the convenience offered by online groceries instead. In response, Morrisons is entering the e-commerce space with Ocado and it believes the new platform should be able to break even in just four years.
But Morrisons’ online push isn’t about to change Philips’ mind.
“As a country, we need to look at how we’re going to tax retailers in general wherever they operate, because we’ve all got to contribute to society, but one can’t be disadvantaged over the other,” he said. “I’m not into intervention for intervention’s sake but you’ve got to have a level playing field. As more and more sales migrate online, it seems to me intuitive that you would tax the online channels as well.”
Philips added that there was simply no logic to the tax system anymore, as the rates keep going up, while at the same time town centres become ghost towns, as brick and mortar outfits find themselves fighting against the odds to stay competitive.